At an emergency meeting of the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) in Claremorris on Wednesday last those present expressed the view that Minister Coveney and his Government had turned their back on farmers in the most vulnerable areas and sectors of farming.
Anger was expressed by the members present regarding the barriers to entry into GLAS and a Beef Genomics Scheme designed for a minority of big suckler farmers, Concern was also expressed regarding the payment rates for the Area of Natural Constraints scheme (ANC) that does not acknowledge the degree of natural handicaps experienced by farmers farming mountain type land.
INHFA Policy Spokesperson Brendan Joyce stated that “only 223 commonages have applied for a Commonage Management Plan (CMP) under GLAS which translates to approx 5% of the total amount of commonages. When the INHFA had met the minister on this issue back in December 2014 they presented a 12 point plan outlining the best way to structure and implement the CMP. While a number of points were taken on board, the main barriers to entry for the traditional hill farmer remain in what we now consider as a scheme that must be amended before the second tranche opens in September.” Failure to do this will stated Mr Joyce “see the destocking of stable flocks under many CMPs and amongst other things exclude farmers that may have small amounts of heather in their land parcels from the low input permanent grassland option under GLAS” The INHFA are also demanding that the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) commission and take ownership of the CMPs as the present system of approving and training planners is not working. Indeed it has resulted in many farmers being hung out to dry and it would now appear that Tier 3 applications will be successful at the expense of tier 1 farmers with priority assets.
On the Beef Genomics Scheme Mr Joyce outlined how it “completely ignores the contribution made by the small suckler herds found very often on the more marginal lands as most of these farmers will be unable to meet the impossible criteria being laid down in the scheme. This will have the result of creating a distortion in the beef sector where larger scale producers who will be in a position to meet the criteria will have a massive comparative advantage”
The INHFA intend to lead a campaign for fairness to ensure that the responsibility given to member states by the European Commission catered for in article 2(1) of Reg 1307/2013 must ensure the equal treatment of all farmers. Mr Joyce added “it is totally unacceptable that farmers in vulnerable areas and sectors cannot access the measures currently available in pillar 2. We are now calling on this government to deliver on its commitment to an annual spend of €580 million for the duration of the RDP. The 30,000 farmers which includes those in hill areas and with designated lands must have fair and equal access to pillar 2 funds. To make this happen we must see the removal of the barriers to enter the current schemes. In addition to this we need to see other measures tailored to the needs of these vulnerable farmers in vulnerable sectors”
INHFA are calling on the Minister to use the unspent funds that will arise in Pillar two on specific welfare measures for lambs and weanlings prioritizing farmers that farm lands classified as “mountain type lands”. This is justified in light of the fact that they have clearly been disadvantaged the most by the removal of the sheep grassland scheme and the discriminatory nature of the Beef Genomics scheme.
Mr Joyce concluded by saying “we are disappointed with the EU Commission giving the green light to a RDP that clearly is discriminatory in its implementation to 30,000 farmers represented by the Association” The INHFA are requesting an immediate meeting with the Minister and the Department on the Pillar 2 programs to address the serious situation farmers now find themselves in.
If you need any further clarification on points in press release please contact either of the following people
Henry O’Donnell (Donegal) 062670742
Brendan Joyce (Galway) 0872226737
Colm O’Donnell (Sligo) 0863892279
John Moran (Mayo) 0868306586